Ten Etiquette Tips For Business Email

Ten Etiquette Tips For Business Email

Sending and checking our email can take up a large chunk of the working day.
But have we become sloppy about the business emails we send? And how do our colleagues respond to the endless pinging of messages that ring in their ears all day?

We’ve come up with some tips to make your outgoing messages more effective and gain attention.  And we have some pointers to make managing email in the office kinder to your co-workers.

Use a clear and concise subject line

The recipient shouldn’t have to do detective work to understand the context. There should be no cause for ambiguity – remember the Two Ronnies sketch about fork handles?

Be friendly but not familiar

Try to use salutations that are appropriate. ‘Dear’ may seem old-fashioned, but ‘Hey’ may be over the top. You may be able to use a diminutive of a name – Bob instead of Robert – if you know someone really well, but otherwise be more formal.

Break up your message into digestible chunks

Your message will have a bigger chance of being absorbed, and acted upon. A stream of consciousness email may be fine in a hyper-charged creative business, but you’ll get a better result with a rational approach.

If you mention a deadline, make sure that this is easily apparent in the text and not buried in it.

Check you have the correct email address

Some people like to start writing an email with entering the address, but others prefer to enter it at the very end, making sure that the message is as they want it to be. Whatever method you prefer, don’t hit send until you’re sure it’s going to the correct person; write their details on a Post-it note if you have to.

Be choosy about your replies

Do you need to select ‘Reply All’ or can you simply reply to the sender?  It is possible that not everyone needs to be aware of your response and it will save people’s inboxes from becoming clogged up. They may even be grateful to you for being considerate.

The sound of silence

If you receive a lot of emails and get a notification sound for each one, use headphones.  That way you can listen to music throughout the day and won’t annoy your colleagues with the pings, pongs, and beeps of ‘message received!’ alerts.

Be a clockwatcher

Try not to fire off emails at the end of the day. Your business associates will appreciate that you do not present them with problems as they are about to leave or, indeed, are at home. ( In France there are now rules that protect workers from being sent emails when they are no longer in the office.)

Make an attachment 

If sending someone an attachment, make sure you’ve chosen the right one.  Nobody really wants to see you posing on the beach in holiday pictures.  Perhaps even more embarrassing than that, is forgetting to attach anything at all.  You’ll be forced into a humiliating second message apologising for the error and saying the report is now included.

Avoid the funny bone 

If you’ve ever hit your funny bone, you’ll know it’s not very humorous at all.  Likewise, putting a joke in an email might seem hilarious at the time, but it could offend the recipients.  Humour is a personal thing and, unless you know your audience really, really well, keep your emails plain and professional.

Listen to the man from Massachusetts

 Finally, when it comes to sensitive and privileged information (like planning a surprise birthday party for a colleague), take a tip from Martin Lomasney (1859 – 1933), who was a senator in Massachussets.


“Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink.”

Have you got any good tips? Let us know in the comments…


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